Start Creating Games In No Time With Unity3D Free

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The world of video games has gone through many changes in the relatively short time it’s been around. First it was cutting-edge with Pong and Pac-Man. Over time, it became nerds-only, then boys-only, and now people from all demographics are enjoying games that range from mobile gaming to Flash gaming to competitive gaming. But recently, there’s been a growing popular trend towards developing video games, not just playing them.

There are plenty of free game development tools out there and many of them are super easy to use. However, for the longest time, game development tools suffered from one huge problem: limitations. When you code a game from scratch, you have absolute freedom to do whatever you want. When you use a creation tool, you’re limited to what that tool can do. That issue, however, is quickly becoming a moot point thanks to Unity3D.

What Is Unity3D?

Unity3D is a powerful 3D engine that has been in official development since 2005. Originally, it was specifically designed to help developers build their projects on Mac computers, but widespread support drove them to start supporting other platforms as well. But Unity3D is more than just a codebase – it’s a full-featured environment complete with hundreds of tools that aid in rapid game development.

You can see in the screenshot above that the application editor is split into numerous panels:

  • A Scene panel that shows a visual representation of all Game Objects in the current Scene. Unity3D divides a game into multiple Scenes and each Scene can represent a different game state, such as the Main Menu, Level 1, Level 2, and a Game Over screen. With this panel, you can manipulate Game Objects through moving, resizing, rotating, etc.
  • A Game panel which becomes active when you give your game a test run. Yes, Unity3D allows you to run your game directly from within the editor, which means extremely fast testing and debugging cycles.
  • A Hierarchy panel that lists all of the different Game Objects in the current Scene. Game Objects can be set as children or parents of other Game Objects, resulting in an easy way to keep everything in a Scene organized.
  • A Project panel that tracks all of the different files and Assets that are part of your project, including textures, sounds, scripts, models, plugins, etc.
  • An Inspector panel that gives you details on the currently selected Game Object or Asset and allows you to edit those details if you wish.

You’ll be interfacing with these panels most often when using Unity3D – except when you’re scripting, of course – so don’t fret if it looks intimidating. You’ll pick it up quicker than you think.

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Reasons to Use Unity3D

Unity3D isn’t the first full-featured game development environment like this. For example, the Unreal Engine 3 actually comes with a similar setup called the Unreal Development Kit. So why should you choose Unity3D over the alternatives?

  • FREE. If you can’t afford it, you can’t use it. Fortunately, Unity3D comes in a Free version and a Pro version. But unlike most programs with multi-tiered payment systems, Unity3D’s Free version is feature complete, NOT crippled. You miss out on a few advanced features, but you can make full games without ever paying a cent.
  • Easy to Learn. You would think that a game development environment would require you to understand engine structure and code organization, but Unity3D introduces a new paradigm. All you have to do is create scripts and attach them to individual Game Objects. The scripts determine a Game Object’s behavior, and interaction between Game Objects is the basis of your game.
  • Multiple Languages. Unity3D scripts can be written using three different languages: UnityScript, C#, and Boo. UnityScript is actually a customized version of JavaScript, so if you have JavaScript experience, you’ll be able to pick it up in no time at all.
  • Lots of Tutorials. Because Unity3D is so popular, there are plenty of resources out there for helping you get started. The official website has a few basic guides. After that, you can explore user-created tutorial series such as Unity Cookie, UnityScript Basics, GamerToGameDeveloper, and more.

Long story short, Unity3D has everything you need as a game developer – whether newbie or veteran – to get you up and running and developing your game in as short a time as possible. It really is the best rapid game development tool you can find for free.

Unity3D Features

What exactly can Unity3D do? It’s nice that it’s free, but does it really live up to user expectations? Can it do everything you want it to do? How flexible is it? For that, we’ll have to take a look at Unity3D’s feature set.

  • Cross Platform Export. Unity3D can export games to numerous gaming platforms, including Windows/Mac/Linux, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii, Wii U, and web players. This is exceptionally useful if you want to create a single game for multiple platforms since you can easily export between them with just a few tweaks.
  • Rendering. Art assets can be directly imported from 3DS Max, Maya, Blender, ZBrush, Cinema 4D, Photoshop, and more. Unity3D supports bump mapping, reflection mapping, advanced lighting, shaders, and other rendering effects. And yes, despite its name, Unity3D can be used to create beautiful 2D games.
  • Physics. Unity3D natively supports Nvidia’s PhysX engine for fast and accurate physics simulations between Game Objects, including real-time cloth simulation, thick ray casts, and collision layers.
  • Networking. Unity3D natively supports RakNet’s UDP networking library, which means you can create multiplayer games with ease.
  • Asset Store. Don’t have any artistic abilities? Don’t have an artist either? With Unity3D’s Asset Store, you can download from a database of various assets that other users have submitted. A lot of these assets cost money but you can find some great free ones.

Conclusion

If you’re into game development, or you want to get into it, then there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t check out Unity3D. It’s been around for a long time and its popularity is only on the rise, so you can expect to see even greater features and advancements as the years go by.

Have you used Unity3D before? If you haven’t, will you now? What do you think about it? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Image Credit: Cubemen 2, Scrolls

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22 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

becoming

we use it to develop a wingsuit flyer game, we tried other game engines, but unity supports our workflow very well…
Check our beta if you like:
http://www.becoming.at

Kendall S

what is the basic skills need to be a game developer?

Jerome I

^if you know at least one programming language and you have great ideas for making games, you’re good to go. Start with a few online Unity3D tutorials. There are games you could make with Unity without scripting anything. Start by experimenting with those things and then go from there.

Reply

Guy M

They used this at a computer camp one of my kids went to. They loved it! We were just talking about it tonight. They want to be a game developer when they grow up – this is an amazing start!

Joel L

Awesome! Game dev used to have such a high barrier to entry but it’s great to hear that kids are being encouraged to venture into it – with tools like Unity3D instead of DOS and BASIC, no less!

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Sh1n0b1

Why does it say ‘Unity – untitled – Test run – PC, MAC & Linux Standalone’ in the titlebar of the unity3D application when there’s no Linux version of Unity3D available ?
Someone cheating ?

Anonymous

There is… unity3d can export to linux… better check their site…

Anonymous

are you also going to complain that there isn’t unity on iphone or android?

(hint: exporting != having a development suite)

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Phil Nolan

If you use the free FPS Control set of tools you don’t even have to know scripting to make your game.

Joel L

You’d still need to know how to script the behaviors of other game entities (such as enemies, items, level transitions, etc.) but you’re right – Unity3D comes with a lot of prepackaged scripts that will get you started immediately!

Phil Nolan

@Joel L FPS Control handles most of that stuff. weapon behaviors, enemy AI, physics, etc. it’s still in beta but more features are being added.

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Kendall S

i think this is may be advanced for me but will give it a look.

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Mick Roper

Its a very good suite for developers coming from a more corporate background (like myself, a seasoned C# developer) that don’t want to go back to C++ or a scripting language like python & pygame. The things you can do with it are pretty immense, and its very easy to throw together a simple-yet-professional looking game in a couple of afternoons of work.

Top engine and IDE

Joel L

That’s similar to my background: I grew up learning how to program games with C/C++ but nowadays it’s too time consuming to do that. Unity3D is the most rapid development engine I’ve ever used and it’s very well possible to have a fully functional game within days, if not hours.

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Marius

It is a very nice engine with a very friendly and helpful community.
I’ve been able to do this http://www.gamingo.ro/featured-category-7/skate-mania-my-first-game/ in just 2 weeks.

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Anonymous

Unity 3D is great, but its not the only one around.
NeoAxis Engine is another really good free development environment for 3D games and simulations. I feel it’s even easier to use than Unity3D. http://www.neoaxis.com/

Joel L

I consider myself to be pretty knowledgeable (not an expert) on the video game development scene but it’s interesting that I’ve never heard of NeoAxis until now. It looks like it has a lot of potential! I’ll look more into that over the coming weeks. Thanks!

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TheMan04

Last time I looked into Unity 3D the free version was indeed feature complete but you missed something very important. The free version does not allow you to release your game (legally) until you adquire a license. And please, if something changed and this is not more accurate tell me, but I don’t think I’m wrong.

That about the license part. When sepaking about features and convenient API and toolset, this engine is one of the most complete. Don’t think you can do only shooters with it. It adapt to any type of game.

Joel L

If that was true before, it’s not true anymore. The following is taken directly from Unity’s licensing FAQ:

“Yes you can create and sell a game with the free version of Unity, without paying royalties or any revenue share. However, the free version of Unity may not be licensed by a commercial entity with annual gross revenues (based on fiscal year) in excess of US$100,000, or by an educational, non-profit or government entity with an annual budget of over US$100,000.

Please also be aware that the feature set of the free version is not intended for the production of professional games and interactive content. Lastly, games made with our Pro trial licenses may not be distributed nor used for commercial purposes.”

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Nathan P

I didn’t realise it was that easy to create awesome 3D games until I went to a game development thing at school. I love Unity 3D!

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Bharat Nag

Well I’ve been using Unity for a while now and its great! believe me and give it a try. I recently moved to Linux (Ubuntu) and I have no idea how to make it work here. Don’t you guys think there shoudh be a linux version too. This might aid indie gaming to large extent. Any inputs guys???

Bharat Nag,
http:bharatnag.tumblr.com

Reply

Mihir Patkar

Great article, Joel. I was just wondering what Unity is all about and this answered some of my questions.

If you have the time, what are the pros/cons of developing in Unity? I’m just wondering why some people would choose it and others wouldn’t, especially over something like Flash.

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